Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thankful that the first week is over

Sometimes in the school year are more challenging than others. The first week of school is certainly one those times. On Monday morning, I was ready. The room was clean and organized. Their first activity was set out on the table. The clipboard was loaded with bus information and blank pages for notes. I had made fairly detailed notes in my plan book for the first three days of school.

Then the students and their families arrived and I detailed some of that an earlier post on this blog. By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted and frustrated with the prep period schedule. It is at a different time each day, which makes teaching routines to children inexplicably difficult since we literally had a different schedule every day this first week. I have plead my case to the administration several times, and carefully explained that a consistent schedule is not about me or my needs but it is about what is best for the children. Since they cannot advocate for themselves, it is my responsibility to advocate for them. It was to no avail. My concerns were answered with shoulder shrugs and a wiping hands gesture, which only aggravated me more! Use you words, Mr. Administrator!

Tuesday came and I was determined to make it a better day. The students arrived to find their laminated picture name cards on the table. For some of them, this seemed to ease some of their worries and anxieties. They saw their picture and relaxed a little, feeling just a tad more comfortable. Oh and then there was the observation. A therapist came to observe on of the students. One the second day of school. I protested and didn't think this was fair to anyone, including the student who was being observed. For some kids, it can take a while before they settle into the routine and are performing to their best ability. Again my protests were seemingly in vain.

A new student arrived on Wednesday. On the bus with no name tag, no identifying information and a very styling hairdo. When I approached to ask what his name was, he greeted me with a string of expletives. So that teacher -student relationship was off to a great start, as you can imagine. He eventually told me his name and he was one of the students on my class list who did not show up at the beginning of the week. He was angry and aggressive throughout the day. I read through his IEP later in the day and familiarized myself with some of his goals and his history.

In addition to helping a new angry and aggressive student adjust, more people arrived to observe the same student who was observed on Tuesday. The message I received said they would come "late morning". That to me is before noon. They did not arrive. So as any classroom teacher knows, the show must go on. When they arrived slightly before 1pm, the students were resting. They were baffled and annoyed. I tried to be professional and polite as I explained that I was expecting them earlier in the day. I also told them when the students would be getting up from their nap and told them that they were welcome to come back then. This did not work for them and I did not see them for the rest of the day.

So that brings us to Thursday, meeting day. By this point in the week, I was marveling at how much my students don't know. In other words, I forget every year how much they learn by June. When we start in September, everything is brand new. I am tired from lack of sleep and stressed. I am still trying to help my students with routines but still have not received any administrative support. The parents of the student who was observed have requested a special meeting. Many people were involved in the case, including private and district therapists. The parents are requesting extra services. The district claims the student does not need all of those services.

I did not want to go to the meeting. I felt like it was more important for me to be with my students since it was only the fourth day of school and all. Even though Ms. S, my para, is fabulous, the kids still need a lot of support and I worried about them. Unfortunately, my presence is mandatory. So off I go to a 2 hour meeting. Everyone in the room is tense. Not much was accomplished. I felt vulnerable, anxious, personally attacked and generally sick to my stomach. Chaos was brewing in the classroom when I returned. I couldn't wait to go home. When I had my prep period at the end of the day, I was distraught and unproductive. Finally, the kids left and I headed to yoga class with a wonderful teacher. Thank goodness for yoga.

Thursday night I was angry about the meeting and some specific things that were said. I felt sorry for myself and for the student. I was bothered by some other unresolved issues from the week and worked feverishly to plan and organize. Mr. K1 teacher, my wonderful husband had worked hard to fixed my computer and I was extremely grateful for all of his hard work. And because of all the stress and intense emotions, I ended up erupting at him about some stupid little thing not working just right on the computer.

Friday was probably the best day of the week. I was buoyed somewhat with the knowledge that it was in fact Friday and that weekend was approaching. The students were adjusting and I started to develop a behavior modification plan for the angry and aggressive student. We will start to implement that plan on Monday. I worked on some paper work type tasks during my prep period, including copying emergency cards, and starting student files. And I taught. That's the point.

Stress, lack of administrative support, and general lack of understanding in my building about early childhood special education drive me insane. I want to teach. I want to enrich young minds. But sometimes, I find all these other things get in the way. I start looking for other jobs and wondering if I should quit. Then I look at the calendar and try to remind myself that its too early in the school year to feel this badly and that things will get better. I hope.

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